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Choose your own way gay adventure!: the Out Traveler's second annual survey of new escapes, bright ideas, and hot global happenings will keep your gay travel agenda crammed to capacity.

Here come the gays!

When gay travel pioneer Hanns Ebensten--who passed away at the age of 82 last July---started the first gay tour operation in 1972, he felt obligated to "warn all hotels, bus companies, and owners of ships I chartered ... that I was proposing to bring a group of homosexual men." Among the companies that felt squeamish about accepting business from a group of gay men was Pan American World Airways. And we all know what happened to Pan Am: Buhbye ... you messed with the wrong niche market.

OK, so maybe a gay travel boycott didn't ground Pan Am's planes, but we've still come a long way baby! Hotels, airlines, and tourism boards are clamoring to see who can outwelcome the next wanderlusting wave of out travelers, as attested by the endlessly hyped "gay travel phenomenon" that continues to generate oceans of ink in both alternative and mainstream media outlets. Nearly 35 years after Ebensten's first tour, a fiver rafting journey down the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River, gay and lesbian travelers are issuing a different kind of warning: If you don't show your gay-friendly colors, your hotel, airline, or destination won't get a piece of our $55 billion travel industry.

According to a September survey of Gay.com members conducted by Community Marketing Inc., a San Francisco-based LGBT market research company, 77.6% of respondents said that they were more likely to choose to travel to destinations that are known for being gay-friendly. If a destinations progress on gay fights is any indication, gay-friendliness made significant strides around the world in 2006, setting the stage for bumper crops of gay and lesbian tourists in 2007.

Warm welcomes

In November, South Africa joined the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, and Spain in opening civil marriage to same-sex couples. That same month Israel's supreme court ruled that the government is required to officially recognize same-sex marriages performed in other countries. Even traditionally Catholic Mexico City passed a same-sex civil union law. And in Brazil antidiscrimination laws and other basic civil rights laws have been extended to gay and lesbian citizens. Closer to home, New Jersey has backed a civil unions bill, promising to shine the spotlight on Garden State gay-popular getaways like Asbury Park and Cape May.

Way out west, even the red states are betting heavily on gay visitors. As part of a big pink gamble in 2006, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority produced its first promotional guide targeting gays and lesbians. Phoenix, Dallas, Denver, and California's Lake Tahoe are among numerous tourism boards that have recently begun courting gay travelers (the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority recently announced that it's taking over a gay ski event started by a local gay and lesbian foundation). Meanwhile, in true-blue California, regional tourism ties have strengthened as San Diego, Palm Springs, and West Hollywood prepare to jointly launch GoGaySoCal.com, offering a bounty of resources for sun-seeking queer tourists.

As for the gay-friendly skies, Southwest Airlines is practically painting its planes' tail fins pink. The airline has offered health benefits to domestic partners since 1999, and after scoring a lower-than-expected rating on the Human Rights Campaign's annual Corporate Equality Index in 2004, the company formed a team of 20 gay and lesbian employees to address the inadequacy. Southwest is now one of the preferred airline brands among LGBT travelers, along with American Airlines, according to a Travel Industry Association survey released December 6.

Hotel happenings

On the hotel front, Hyatt recently launched a queer ad campaign, and W Hotels is continuing its popular gay-marketed Pride 365 package through April 1, 2007--but this one comes with a twist. W is catching on that the queer crowd favors not only companies that support us sharing the same bed with our partners but those that are in bed with the LGBT movement itself. The package includes a one-year membership to LGBT civil rights organization Lambda Legal--with a discounted room rate and two cocktails thrown in for good measure. Gays and lesbians are spending more and more time in hotel rooms--15 nights on average, according to the Gay.com/CMI survey--and we want to feel supported and empowered every time we settle up and check out.

Of course, we want many things. We want to discover ever more luxurious amenities, gadgets, and services: When New York City's famed Plaza Hotel reopens next year, each room will have an easy-to-use touch-screen device for ordering a bottle of champagne, making dinner reservations, and calling a taxi. We want to stay in one-of-a-kind works of art: Among the 100-plus hotels opening in Beijing in advance of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games is Dutch superstar-chitect Rem Koolhaas's Television Cultural Center, which will include a 300-room luxury hotel. (Beijing has a new homegrown gay tour company, Go Pink China, set to capitalize on the surge of gay travelers that visit during the next two years.)

What it really boils down to is this: When you come home from China or Sydney or Marrakesh or Vancouver (the top-rated international destination in the Gay.com/CMI survey) and hold court at the local gay bar or gather with friends over dinner or swap travel tales in the locker room at the gym, you want to share your latest "life-changing" adventure (OK, maybe a bit of healthy one-upmanship is involved). If that adventure happens to include the e-buffer you could summon on your poolside PDA (at the St. Regis chain), a choice of 15 soaps (at the Rome Cavalieri Hilton), or a "Blackberry hand treatment" (available at the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort and Spa in Indian Wells, Calif.), even better. We expect hotels, airlines, and other travel businesses to bend over backward make us feel welcome. The 1,000-thread-count Egyptian cotton is just icing on the cake.

To infinity, and beyond!

As you traverse the globe this year, be it on one of the small boutique airlines that became trendy in 2006 (Eos, MiMa, Privatair), in the forthcoming Airbus A380 (those mammoth super-long-haul planes finally go airborne this year after months of delays), on the new high-speed Qnghai-Tibet train, in a convertible cherry-red Mustang hogging Route 66, or via floating gay utopia (LGBT transatlantic and transpacific cruises are planned in 2007!), remember: There's really no limit to where we as out travelers go next. Final frontier, anyone? Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo begins suborbital flights as early as 2009. You can bet that Mr. Hanns Ebensten would have already had his flight suit pressed.

JUST THE GAY TRAVEL FACTS, MA'AM! *

Top five U.S. destinations New York

Las Vegas San Francisco Los Angeles Chicago

Top five international destinations

Vancouver Montreal Toronto Great Britain France

LGBT travelers who have a valid passport

65.8%

LGBT travelers who have used a passport in the last 12 months

42.8%

Cruise vacations

15.2% Took a cruise in the last year 6.6%

Took a gay cruise in the last 3 years 20.8%

Took a mainstream cruise in the last 3 years

Overnight hotel stays per year

Median: 15 nights 92.5% Stayed at least one night

Frequency of air travel per year

Median: 6 days 81.3% Flew at least once

Number of overnight trips per year

Business: 1 trip

Personal: 2 trips

Leisure: 2 trips

Number of nights per trip

Business: 7 nights

Personal: 8 nights

Leisure: 11 nights

LOOKING FOR A FEW HOT 2007 TRAVEL IDEAS? SEE WHAT'S NEW IN SOME OF OUR OLD GAY FAVORITES

AMSTERDAM

A yearlong lineup of special music and dance events will ensure that Nederlanders "Feel the Rhythm." Also, gay party MegaTrash returns.

BERLIN

Snatching up designer German duds gets easier as new shopping rules have relaxed strict municipal regulations, allowing stores to choose expanded hours of operation.

BOSTON

Prison fantasies go luxe as the historic Charles Street Jail completes its transformation into the four-star Liberty Hotel in tres cute Beacon Hill this summer.

BUENOS AIRES

The design-heavy, Barcelona-based Axel Hotel (the world's first gay hotel chain) opens a South American location with 48 rooms, a spa, garden, pool, and restaurant/bar.

CAPE TOWN

Legalized same-sex marriage is one more reason for South Africans to celebrate on the fifth anniversary of their largest pride festival (in Cape Town) February 15-25.

CHICAGO

The Field Museum explains why gays are the pinnacle of evolution with a massive Darwin exhibit opening June 15.

FORT LAUDERDALE

The beaches and bars of Florida's gay hub bathe in the spotlight as officials launch the state's first campaign targeting gay and lesbian tourists.

KEY WEST

A new generation of gays discovers bucolic beaches and full-frontal nightlife during Gay Spring Break's inaugural debauch, over six weeks from February through April.

LAS VEGAS

Head to the Strip for The Producers at the Paris hotel, then head home to strip amid the slick renovations of the clothing-optional all-male Blue Moon Resort.

LONDON

Amid a sea of Lycra, buffed-up legs pound the pavement for the 2007 Grand Depart of the Tour de France, ,July 6-8.

LOS ANGELES

Movie lovers fete the 25th anniversary of OutFest, then bed down like stars at David Geffen's newly renovated and ultradeluxe Malibu Beach Inn.

MINNEAPOLIS

Hipper and gayer by the day. Springtime sees Randy Harrison at the Guthrie; October, Georgia O'Keeffe at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

MONTREAL

The Museum of Fine Arts puts Disney cartoons and European art history in context beginning in March, while the 15th anniversary of Divers/Cite in the summer puts queers in the party mood.

NEW ORLEANS

See female portraiture from the Louvre at the "Femme, Femme, Femme" exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art, March 3-June 2.

NEW YORK CITY

After 15 years in the West Village, Heritage of Pride follows the gay migration and moves its annual PrideFest street fair to Chelsea's Eighth Avenue.

PARIS

The Dieux du Stade calendar jumps from paper to the pitch when the sixth Rugby World Cup quickens pulses in September and October.

PHILADELPHIA

Get your history straight while keeping your family gay as R Family goes ashore for a gay-friendly weekend tour March 10-11.

PROVINCETOWN

Amtrak and Cape Air make it easy (and cheaper) to frolic in the dunes with reduced rates for couples traveling from New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

RIO DE JANEIRO

Ipanema beach barbies get chiseled competition from professional jocks during the 15th Pan American Games in July.

SAN DIEGO

Altar Boyz, Hairspray, Chicago, and Joan Collins with Linda Evans in Legends! round out the city's 30th Broadgay ... er, Broadway season.

SAN FRANCISCO

After a bit of a drought, the Castro reinvigorates its nightlife scene with increased entertainment options in bars (think cabaret, drag, and go-gos).

SEATTLE

Metrosexuality is over. Seattle goes "Metronatural" along its downtown waterfront with the gorgeous new Olympic Sculpture Park as well as Pike Place Market's year-long centennial bash.

SHANGHAI

The Western multiplex comes to China via Pinkhome, a newly renovated dance club, restaurant/lounge, and hotel all in one gay party package.

SYDNEY

By land or by sea, Oz gets gayer with the glitter-filled Priscilla, Queen of the Desert theatrical extravaganza.

SOUTH BEACH

Forget Paris: Nicky Hilton unveils her 0berdesigned boutique hotel group Nicky O, with uniforms by Hilfiger and suites by Heatherette, Fendi, and Roberto Cavalli.

VANCOUVER

This is now the top LGBT travel destination, according to CMI survey results, but bring your passport, as it's now required for all air travelers to Canada.
COPYRIGHT 2007 Liberation Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:TRAVEL FORECAST 2007
Author:Ocean, Justin
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Feb 27, 2007
Words:1896
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